BCC PROFESSOR CONTRIBUTES HIS TALENTS TO THE UNITED NATIONS
Dr. Ahmed Reid Becomes a Member of the Human Rights Council
November 24, 2015 — With students from over 100 countries who speak 80 different languages, Bronx Community College can often seem like a miniature United Nations. And now, a BCC professor of history is going to work for the actual U.N. On December 1, Dr. Ahmed Reid will become one of the five members of the United Nations Human Rights Council’s Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent.
“I sit as the representative for Latin America and the Caribbean,” says the Jamaican-born scholar who first came to BCC in 2011. “We are tasked to study the problems of racial discrimination faced by people of African descent. We gather all relevant information from governments, nongovernmental organizations and other sources. We also visit countries where we think problems exist. Then we submit our report to the U.N. Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.”
Though this is Associate Professor Reid’s first stint with the U.N., he is no stranger to activism. “Since my time as a graduate student living in the Caribbean and as a historian with the experience of colonialism and what colonialism has done to the Caribbean – ‘disfigured’ it, I always use that phrase – I have believed that history and social justice go hand in hand. My task is not just to teach history in the classroom, but also to do a lot of advocacy work. I do public lectures and history education, because in the Caribbean, particularly in Jamaica, about three percent of the population gets the chance to go to university. The wider public needs to know the history and the legacy of slavery and colonialism.”
He was speaking at a conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization when he became aware of the post on the Working Group and interviewed for it. “I received the highest ranking from the Consultative Group (the five ambassadors who recommend candidates for Humans Rights Council positions).” Dr. Reid is now the only historian on the Working Group.
Dr. Reid was born in the parish of St. James – and like many of his BCC students, he's the first in his family to attend college, having received a B.A. in History from the University of the West Indies, Mona, Jamaica and a Ph.D. in Social and Economic History at The University of Hull, England.
The year 2007 was the bicentenary of the British abolition of slavery and Dr. Reid worked as a researcher for the Jamaican National Bicentenary Committee. This began his interest in what is now the focus of his career. “I started then and I’ve never stopped. The legacy of slavery and colonialism is still there and people of African descent continue to face discrimination and intolerance. My motivation is to help eliminate all of this. The Working Group tries to find measures to not only sensitize people of African descent about these issues but everyone.”
Dr. Reid has been the recipient of several awards, including a prestigious research fellowship from Yale University's Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance and Abolition, a research fellowship from the John Carter Brown Library, Brown University, and a PSC-CUNY grant to conduct archival research in England. He is the author and co-author of articles such as "Sugar, Land Markets and the Williams Thesis: Evidence from Jamaica's Property Sale” in Slavery and Abolition and "Sugar, Slavery and Productivity in Jamaica, 1750 – 1807,” Slavery and Abolition.
Such scholarship will make him an indispensable asset for the Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent, on which he will be serving until June of 2022. But students in his classes on Caribbean History, World Regional Geography and the History of the Modern World will be happy to know he will continue to teach, preach and inspire on the campus of Bronx Community College.